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Use of John Wayne Airport Funds Questioned

May 02, 1999|JEAN O. PASCO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

COSTA MESA — More than $14 million that could have been spent on operations at John Wayne Airport in the last five years has been routed instead by county officials to pay for planning a commercial airport at El Toro Marine Base.

The John Wayne Airport money represents the bulk of $23 million spent to date on El Toro since a countywide vote in 1994 approved turning the base into a commercial airport after the Marines leave in July.

The airport funds come from parking fees, concessions, business leases, taxis and airline landing fees.

South Orange County opponents of El Toro have raised questions about spending John Wayne Airport money for planning at El Toro, including a 770-acre regional park and 88 acres for a southern campus of Cal State Fullerton.

Particularly galling for airport foes is a decision by the pro-El Toro majority on the Board of Supervisors to spend $151,000 for six months of cable television advertisements touting the benefits of the new airport.

A confidential legal opinion by County Counsel Laurence M. Watson justified the county's practice of using John Wayne Airport funds for planning the reuse of the entire 4,700-acre base.

The opinion cites Federal Aviation Administration correspondence in 1997 and 1998 endorsing the county's approach.

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